Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday 1/08: "Awkward Moments" in the News

This was the big deal: Katherine Webb

A female resident calls 911, identifies herself by name, and calmly requests that police to come to her home apparently without much further elaboration. The police arrive and consent to being dismissed by a male from a window without speaking to the female resident who made the call. Law enforcement officials and experts are drawing distinctions between police needs to establish "reasonable suspicion" rather than "probable cause." The officers' cognizance of the prevalence of domestic violence and the seriousness with which they may have attempted to thwart that possibility have yet to be established. (P-G, Silver & Navratil)

Meanwhile, through the portal of a sideshow concerning news gathering, public relations and accusations of "unprecedented" unprofessionalism, we notice several as-yet unanswered questions arousing the interest of P-G reporters, such as, "What shift were the officers working (that is, when were they due to end their shfits)?" (P-G Early Returns, Tim McNulty)

The seriousness with which the police department and city administrators approach the issue of domestic violence was an explosive issue back in 2007.

Oxford Development is still mulling over building a skyscraper. At least the drilling ban is not cited as the big hold-up in this iteration. (P-G, Mark Belko)

The Allegheny Institute, showing what may be uncommon circumspection, raises a possible connection between County practices establishing property tax exemptions for nonprofits and the business of issuing them bonds. Brilliant inference -- not a smoking gun, but part of the broad mosaic of how nonprofits come to their place on their high pedestal.

Yinzercation, a website launched to advocate against Gov. Corbett's public education cuts, has taken up the cause against teacher evaluations or "Value Added Measures". Mostly wrong-headed in my opinion but admirably thorough of the voguish argument. Why not just say, "Don't vilify politicians. Politicians are not the problem! Let's get rid of all these reporters, auditors, and high-stakes elections, the results of all of which have known imperfections. Let's just hire more politicians, pay them more, and let public officials focus on officiating!"

Monday, January 7, 2013

Peduto Claims Early Fundraising Record

Details are at P-G Early Returns. Recent news from the Peduto campaign has included a call for presenters at the PCRG Community Development Summit and an invitation to CeaseFirePA's "Too Many Victims Lost to Gun Violence" Vigil tomorrow. Tweets have included updates on neighborhood water main breaks and several hockeygasms. A recent interview is available at WPTS radio.

Monday 1/07: "The Absence of Policies"

Harper Paperbacks

The City task force demanded by state financial overseers for examining the age old conundrum of extracting tribute from nonprofits has been assembled.

Rich Stanizzo, business manager for the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council, who confirmed he is a member of the task force, said he believes contributions will come only through forceful means. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

I'm right with him on that.

[ICA Director Yearly] believes [nonprofits] would rather cooperate than have government challenge their tax-exempt status. If they don‘t cooperate, he said, the city can “let the enforcement people get more aggressive and go that way.” (ibid)

Which begs a huge question of why we don't start off that way -- but I suppose they've decided this needs to be a three-act play. (Hopefully not written as farce.)

Ka'Sandra Wade was murdered at her home in Pittsburgh on New Years Eve, after police responded to a 911 call and took minimal action. The police department, the Citizen's Police Review Board and the District Attorney have all declared their own concerns and investigations already, which seems uncommonly attentive of everybody and perhaps signals a foul-up.

“If it‘s a policy or procedure deficiency, if that‘s exposed, it‘ll have to be tightened up. If it‘s a performance issue, negligence, that will have to be dealt with, too,” [CPRB Director Pittinger] said.

“They left after (a man) said everything was OK and wouldn‘t let (the police) in. How does that happen?”(Trib, Bobby Kerlik)

I hope it was a procedural deficiency, that we remedy it and actually can improve. If the operational flow-chart is fine as it is but it was simply disregarded, sad to say I can think of nothing in the annals of police discipline that would suggest a satisfactory resolution.

Yet people do seem to be admirably alert. Maybe the system can handle the policing aspect for now, while the rest of us reflect on how to provide support for women who may be at risk way before situations come to a head.

The Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments is a wreck, according to Controller Chelsa Wagner; a completely understandable state of affairs seeing as how it has been Allegheny County policy for more than a decade to refuse to assess property even if it means breaking out cyanide capsules.

"A number of us on our team were visibly taken aback when [OPA] made that argument that other taxing bodies need to challenge the exemptions," Ms. Wagner said, "when I believe Allegheny County is a taxing body." (P-G, Sean D. Hamill)

Two takeaways: 1) Isn't it starting to seem like our beloved County has for some time been held together with winks, optical illusions and slime? I don't envy any new office holders trying to dredge the swamp and rectify matters.

And 2) the relationship between Controller Wagner and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald just seems to be getting ridiculously, embarrassingly, absurdly chilly. Especially considering our county has real life Republicans with which two elected Democrats might someday need to jointly contend, and also considering the dreadful scope of our perpetual financial emergencies. Is it just nervous politics? One might speculate whether Fitzgerald's previous role as tractable county Council President during the iron-fisted reign of Dan Onorato is making things awkward. But whatever it is, it's not a good look for County leadership.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Buncher Co. Entitlted to "Special" Zoning without Public Officials Complaining

Sprocket Ink

Like a guy who had to wait at the DMV:

“I did not enjoy one minute of what we've been through the last six months, for a company that has built a reputation over the last 60 years in Western Pennsylvania and six counties. We have a lot of good projects to point to.” (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

News is they're willing to go it alone without public tax increment financing -- a tangential victory? -- although slipping beneath mention here is any leverage the City might still enjoy in requiring approvals to demolish the part of the Produce Terminal housing the public market.

Previous mayors, including Tom Murphy, whom Dowd invited last month to City Council to speak against the plan, were unwilling to help. (ibid)

Why were the previous mayors unwilling to help Buncher with this vision? Did they also have a bitter political problem with Luke Ravenstahl when he was back in grade school? When did this degree of developer entitlement kick in?

BONUS: Does the accompanying chart do anything for anybody?